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Pantry Staples to make throwing dinner together a breeze

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Let me start off by saying that while I love, love, love to cook, I despise the supermarket. The lines, the rude shoppers, and the endless waiting around the meat counter test my patience beyond it’s limits (which, if I’m being honest- I have no patience).

That being said, even having tried online grocery delivery apps like Fresh Direct and Instacart, I still think it’s best to select your own meats, fruits and veggies, and check the expiry labels. I do, however, love to utilize Target’s free shipping over $35 to get great pantry items in a hurry, or Amazon Prime Pantry if I’ve got some time to wait.

Some people don’t mind running out for this and that here and there, but I am not one of those people. I find solace in knowing have a well-stocked kitchen because I love pantry shopping- and can always pull together a dinner on the fly (although, sometimes I still just order a pizza). With everyone’s lives being s hectic all the time and people barely having time to sit down, I feel it’s more important now than every to appreciate the value of learning to shop well and stock a pantry well so that you’re always able to pull something together even when “there’s no food in the house.”

Below is a list of items I like to look for while pantry shopping, and how to utilize them to create simple, home cooked meals in a flash, and (bonus) make your grocery store trips less frequent.

pantry shopping

My Pantry Staples:


Keeping these staple items on hand makes throwing together a quick meal you just found on Pinterest that much easier. These items are common building blocks in a variety of recipes, or add ins that pump up flavor with minimal effort. You could make a sauce, stew or soup with a lot of these as the base, while some are just no-brainer convenience foods for when hanger strikes (see PB&J).

  • Tomato Sauce
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste
  • Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
  • Canned Beans (Black Beans, Cannellini, Pinto, Chickpeas)
  • Chipotles in Adobo Sauce
  • Jarred Salsa Verde
  • Canned Tuna in water
  • Jarred or canned artichoke hearts
  • Chicken stock
  • Diced Green Chilis
  • Jarred Pesto
  • Jarred pickled items (peppers, pickles, olives, etc)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Grape Jelly
  • Panko Breadcrumbs


Packaged pasta and grains have and incredibly long shelf life, so I keep a variety on hand at all times. With these staples, you can easily throw together a quick pasta dish, a soup, a stir fry, or just a flavorful grain side.

  • Various shaped pastas
  • White Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Farro


These bare-minimum baking basic essentials can help you throw together a quick banana bread, pizza dough, or even act as an aid in thickening sauces and stews.

  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Cornstarch
  • Brown Sugar
  • Active Dry Yeast Packets
  • Yellow Cornmeal

Fats, Acids and Condiments to grab while pantry shopping:

This little list is probably my favorite. While I have mad love for fat and acid and the magic they bring to the table, literally, I may have a condiment problem. But anyway- these items aid in perfect sears, crisp frying, perfect baking and add that little extra zing to your dish, whether it be tuna salad or the perfect Pad Thai.

  • Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Cooking Spray
  • Various Vinegars (Red Wine, Rice Wine, Apple Cider Vinegar)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Balsamic Glaze
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Hot Sauce (Such as Franks or Tabasco)
  • Mustard (Yellow, Dijon)
  • Ketchup
  • Relish
  • Horseradish
  • Fish Sauce
  • Sweet Chili Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Harissa
  • Mayo
pantry shopping

Additional items I like to keep on hand:

Perishable/Refrigerated Items to consider while pantry shopping:

While these are not technically part of a literal “pantry,” these are items that I am always thrilled that I have on hand, and that I definitely feel if they are not present. Like the tinned and jarred items, these are super well rounded and multi-purpose and are present in a ton of recipes.

  • Unsalted Butter
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Sour Cream
  • Bread (Sourdough and Marble Rye)
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cheddar Cheese

Basic Pantry Shopping: Building Block Spices:

My love of spices knows no bounds (my cupboard and my giant hand-crafted spice rack are both full, but still- no bounds). This list is of spices I think every cook needs. These are super well rounded and will carry you through a ton of recipes.

  • Chicken & Beef Bullion Packets
  • Kitchen Bouquet (Liquid Gravy Enhancer)
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Salt (Coarse and Table)
  • Peppercorns
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Thyme
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Whole Nutmeg
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Paprika
  • Dry Mustard
  • Dill
  • Ginger
  • Old Bay
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Poultry Seasoning
  • Curry Powder
  • Bay Leaves

Next Level Spices

Have I told you lately that I love you, spice rack? This is a list of some of the spices I have acquired over time that I now can’t live without, with a little explanation on the WHY for each:

  • Columbia Seasoning: A spice mixture my boyfriend’s dad brought back for us from a trip to Florida, this garlicky delight is great in everything from fish, to sweet potato hash, and we even sprinkle it on pizza.
  • 21 Seasoning Salute: Trader Joe’s, I salute you. Please never stop making this perfectly balanced spice mixture that’s savory and vibrant, and great on everything from baked chicken to white bean dip.
  • Mushroom Spice: A new addition at Trader Joe’s, this umami-packed spice is great for amping up mushroom heavy dishes, or just for adding a little more depth to beef or lamb dishes.
  • Ground Coriander: A zesty, floral spice that’s great in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
  • Gumbo File: A must have for great Gumbo.
  • New Orleans Cooking School SpiceAnother must have for gumbo and various creole dishes. Also great for a Crab boil.
  • Turmeric, Garam Masala, Madras Curry: Pronounced, earthy spices that are great in Indian dishes.
  • Poppy Seeds: Will put you to sleep. But really, I love it in my Country Coleslaw and Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts, and it’s also great in salad dressings and lemon desserts.
  • Celery Seeds: The “salad” queen. I add it to Country Slaw, Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad and Macaroni Salad.
  • Caraway Seeds: I really only use these in my Sauerkraut with Bacon and Onion for my Rueben Egg Rolls, but it’s so important I always keep it around.
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds: Great to top Seared Tuna, Roasted Asparagus or Stir fry dishes for a little kick of nutty flavor and crunch.
  • Hungarian Paprika: Sweeter in favor than your standard paprika, I use this spice when making traditional Hungarian foods like Chicken Paprikash, or when I want a more nuanced paprika flavor.
  • Tarragon: Lovely in chicken salad, baked salmon, or in some potato dishes.
  • Saffron: Expensive, but great in Paella or used to flavor some rice dishes.
  • Cardamom: Great for Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, some baked goods, and Mexican Hot Chocolate.
  • Sazon: A bright orange Puerto Rican spice blend I love to use to spice up boring chicken salad.

For dinner ideas, visit my dinners page!

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